Friday, September 08, 2006


On feminism

Colleague and friend Lisa Dusseault has an interesting blog entry about what makes one a "feminist". I commented there, but I want to repeat my comment here, because it adds to things I've said here before. Go read Lisa's post. And here's my comment about it:

I also know nobody who calls themselves a feminist
I do (call myself one). OK, not every day, maybe not even often. But when it comes up (like now). And when I make blog posts like this one, and say, as I often do, that the world would be a better place if it were run by women.

I supported the ERA (remember that?!), and was aghast that a simple thing like that couldn't pass. (I'd rather that such a thing were so obvious that it didn't need to be in our constitution, but in the 1970s it was still common enough to hear people say that the Declaration of Independence says that "all men are created equal", such that I believed that it was necessary.)

Some of it may be, as you say, that accepting as a matter of course, as something unremarkable, that women have these rights to equality, and, therefore, who was once a feminist is now a mainstream, average person, and "feminist" applies only to certain nutjobs with crazy-by-today's-standards ideas. I dunno.

But, you know, to me, the fuss being made this week about Katie Couric and her being the first permanent news anchor for a major network makes it clear that we're not "there" yet. If it were unremarkable, we wouldn't remark. That it is remarkable is a symptom of a continuing problem.

And so I'm still a feminist.

it's better for your reputation to be sexually promiscuous if you're male than if you're female
True enough in general, but I'll point out that Bill Clinton got in lots more trouble for his indiscretions than Monica Lewinsky did. (But I don't mean to belittle your point; you're absolutely right. I'm sure that lots of those guys who on the outside were cluck-clucking about it, on the inside were saying, "All right, he got it on her dress!" Yeef.)

But, yeah, we have no Hester Prynnes these days. Only William Jeffses. Yeef, again.

What turned "feminist" into a nasty epithet?
The same thing that's turned "liberal" into one, and that's co-opted "patriot": political spin. Back in ERA days, in the heyday of Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem... and Phyllis Schlafly... the anti-feminists were portraying feminists as bra-burning nuts, who would make all bathrooms unisex and send all young women off to war. Who claimed that there were no differences between men and women, and would have men and women playing American football in the same professional league.

The feminist side, of course, tried to point out that none of that was what we were on about. That the point was to give women the opportunity and the choice to do whatever they want — including to be homemakers and soccer moms, to cook and sew and clean house, if that's what they want to do.

But as so often happens, the sensationalist message is the one that sticks, not the one borne of reason and sense.

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